Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Bye For Now

With “Twitter Math Camp” over, I’ve been looking forwards again - as I suppose are many teachers. I’m troubled. Not by the teaching, but by the rest of it. By what goes on outside of teaching. As such, I will be departing the Social Media Math Community (the “MTBoS”) for a time. Have a soundtrack!

AMV Friday #38
I’m posting this publicly for two reasons: 1) I don’t want anyone to think I’m ignoring them if they see me online. 2) If I am spotted online, your first question should probably be “how’s the writing?”. Because here’s the thing.


I’m a writer first, and a teacher second. Time I own up to that. It says it in my Twitter description. My first post to this blog said I would talk about 1) Writing; 2) Math. I have a personal page for all the writing I’ve done, and (aside from my course webpage) nothing for my teaching. I only started blogging in connection with the “Math Twitter Blog O’ Sphere” when my math serial went on hiatus (due to some personal issues) back in late 2012. Since my serial ended last May, the posting has mostly been about the teaching.

This is not working for me.

You want to talk about being a fraud in the MTBoS? Look no further. Improving my teaching doesn’t make me near as happy as improving my writing.

Amusingly enough, I think that this fact has been obvious on the blog itself. Perhaps I haven’t been paying enough attention? (Have you?) I can’t go four posts here without a posting related to my writing. I’ve constantly been looking to vary up my style, from posting multiple points of view in my first “Day in the Life” series, to recently to inserting “find the lies” games into my TMC summary recaps. I also complain about how I write too much on tests and evaluations.

I'll even say that I've always been a bit out of synch. Some MTBoS people I’ve talked to speak of how they have “draft posts never published” or how “blog writing is hard” and WOW do I not get that. I mean, I get that it’s hard in terms of being time consuming, but the writing and having people read it is fun as all get out. Then again, have you ever seen me write a short post? For better or probably worse?

The main problem is that I now know I won’t have the time for both recreational AND teaching related writing come September 2014. Because: 1) After only 15 hours at school the last two days, I’m too spent to write; 2) The fiction story I’m presently working on is harder than my mathematical serial was. To be realistic, I have to kick something to the curb - and it’s going to be the teacher conversations. It’s not like I’ve been churning out useful lessons for anyone anyway, that’s not why I post. And there are others out there with a sympathetic ear.

I doubt it will be a permanent departure. In fact, once I (hopefully) have found some other people out there who like my writing style in fiction, I may see if they’ll follow me back to personified math. It may take months or years, but I left a fairly large narrative hook on the end of my last “Taylor’s Polynomials” storyline - I just didn’t have it in me to follow up. Not then. Still, it’s there if I (or another person) decides to use it.

First sketch. No inking.
If anyone’s curious, here’s the basics of my new story! Katherine “Kat” Irving is a girl who died in a fire when she was young. She is currently the university roommate of Carrie Waterson, a freshman from Ontario, who learned in her junior year of high school that she has the ability to control time. How is this possible? And what’s the deal with the OTHER person able to control time, who seems bent on destroying Carrie?

Time travel stories are a joy to write, but a pain in the ass in terms of plotting, due to the non-linear cause and effect. Depending on the next few weeks, I may toss out my JulNoWriMo from 2012 as my next serial instead: “Balancing Act”. Melissa Virga, a former university student who knows sorcery, is being targeted. James Conway, the Watson to her Holmes, picks up the story from the time of their graduation.

And I’m certain that 90% of those in the MTBoS who read those last paragraphs went “uh... okay?” Which is why you’re not my audience. You probably weren’t my audience for personified mathematics either, seeing as most of the MTBoS is looking for things to improve their teaching, and on that front I got nothing. (Maybe songs. Little else.) Nothing against any of you - it makes sense that reading the equivalent of “Agents of SHIELD” isn’t going to make you teach any better. But writing it will make me happier. Which may help me teach better. Time to be investigating things like #TeachersWrite. Anyone else know more about that?


Now, if you do think I can be of some help, you can still let me know. I won’t be scrolling through my Twitter feed, but I’ll pop on infrequently to have a look at “Notifications” and “DM”s (Direct Messages), as I will still be tweeting: (1) Interesting stats articles and any serial updates; (2) #AMVFriday (like the soundtrack you clicked on earlier); and (3) My education column “There Are No Dumb Questions”, at MuseHack (hopefully less than 50% of you said ‘what’s that?’). So many you may not even notice a difference. If you do, again, I’m not deliberately ignoring you.

It’s just I can’t do it. I can’t teach all day, then come home and do more teaching related things online. I’m already losing my mind. I need recreation. This summer isn’t providing it. My belief - my hope - is that writing can.

In the middle of my backswing?!

I will grant there’s a bit of a contradiction going on, in that I seem to have gained a measure of credibility within the MTBoS... even as I leave it. And since I’ve said that I don’t get close to people - perhaps my being accepted as part of a group is what makes me want to step away from it? I’m pretty sure that’s not the case, but if you think I’m wrong, feel free to call me out on it. By the same token, if you feel like that could be a thing within YOURSELF when it comes to groups, you may want to analyze it.

As to why I’m doing this NOW, and not at the start of SEPTEMBER (when I actually start teaching - I’ve only been out of school since June 30), it’s because I’m preparing to go to Edinburgh this weekend, for two weeks, with a bunch of teenagers (and my dept head and parents), to perform a play at the Fringe. This means I won’t be checking my online accounts that much ANYWAY, very soon. So rather than try and catch up in late August only to face this again, I’m calling it here.


The house is now taking bets on whether I can write more if I'm focussed on it, through sheer force of will... given I’m not prepared to do what Michael Pershan did, and have someone lock out my social media passwords. Time will tell. What I may have going for me is that I got through a degree in Computer Science without any coffee. (Seriously people, if you need a cup of coffee to feel awake in the morning, that’s a problem. Do something about it. #ConfessYourUnpopularOpinion)

Fare thee well, MTBoS. What you’re doing is magical... but it’s not the magic I need right now.

I need the Magic Circle of Stats?


  1. I love reading what you post here, but you are planning a completely reasonable thing. AND you had the conscious thought to plan it. I have no posts on my blog mid-January to mid-May for mostly similar but a few different reasons, and it turned out to be okay to plug back in if I chose to (which in my case I did). If you take a 2 month or 2 year break, I'm confident that you will be welcomed back in the same way that a new person is welcomed in. If you never come back (seems less likely but possible), I'm confident you will find other energizing communities that really connect with you. Go live out some passion and get yourself energized.

    1. Thanks - granted, I have a tendency to plan a lot of things. I like plans. Good to hear plugging in and out worked for you! (I was wondering about that gap, actually.) Appreciate not only the confidence, but the few comments you've made in recent days too. Hope the stats planning goes well.

  2. I've very excited for you that you are going to spend more time on writing. If you are a writer who is not writing, it's dragging down your life. Good for you for recognize this.

    1. It's not that I'm not writing. It's that what I'm writing isn't thrilling me. I liked writing the serial, until I felt like it wasn't interesting to people. I wrote more on this blog in July than any prior month - and while I felt it was interesting, it was somehow unfulfilling. I'm hoping a return to my roots will help. We shall see; writing is indeed a funny thing.

  3. Have a great time with your writing. So inspirational to see someone carving out time for getting better at something they care about.

    1. I shall try... either way, I'm glad that it's somehow inspirational. Because in the end, that's definitely what I'm aiming for.

  4. Good luck! I've read the junior high version of Carrie and I'm looking forward to seeing what she gets up to in university. Kat is already intriguing. Can't wait!

    Take the time to recharge. You were starting to sound like you were in the same mind space I was in in 1999 and in 2002, which isn't a good space to be in. However, you're doing better than I did and recognized that something was wrong and are doing something about it. Go you! :D

    If you can, take a moment in Scotland to take in being there. Take some photos, absorb some ambiance, peek behind curtains, get a feel for the country. Who knows? You might be able to use something you discover there. :)

    Oh, and can I ask for writing updates? :)

    1. In fact, the trick may be showing some of what Carrie gets up to, and not getting bogged down in the temporal plot. Though I'll admit, I hope to be drumming up some interest for the prequels in this too.

      I hope it's me recharging - something is wrong, though I'm not sure I've pegged it. I'm certainly still troubled by marking issues... we'll see. And I'll pretty much be confined to Edinburgh, but yes, I do like taking photos. It's also not a complete coincidence that Kat is a redhead from the UK either.

      Definitely feel free to pester me about the writing!! A large part of July was spent on plot details and characters. Getting to the point where I can begin (I hope), perhaps after the school trip.

  5. That's the trick, yes, but Carrie has shown herself to ignore her writer a few times, and you have a few extras that can appear as needed.

    I hope so, too. After the last year, you really need some time to shut down and recover. Marking will be there whether you think about it or not, so a week not thinking about it may help. Even confined to Edinburgh isn't that bad. Still a place where you can soak in ambiance. And photos are always good. :) Ooh, I am now more intrigued.

    I will! It sounds like you've done a lot of work already. Can you do any writing on the plane? It's not like the students can go far.

    Oh, and if/when you post the Virga Mysteries, where will the chapters be? Here or over with the Math-tans?

    1. Just need to figure out what "recover" means to me, maybe. Not sure I'll be writing much when away though, as most of my writing is done by typing (because of my constant revisions) and I won't be around my computer a good deal of the time.

      As to posting the writing for readers -- that won't be in either place. ;) Math-tans is for math writing, this blog is for... whatever this blog is for... so I'm liable to start up a wordpress site for my general writing efforts.

  6. Good luck - the MTBoS, while wonderful, can be all-consuming. I look forward to reading more of your writing, and to your putting your 2-cents in online, now and then. - WM

    1. Thanks - I think you're right about all-consuming, in part because one of my problems is an inability to dial something down. I tend to be on or off. Either way, I look forward to being read!

  7. I'm so glad you're doing what you love. Keep on following your passions for as long as they make you happy -- be selfish -- and all that jazz. Enjoy the Fringe festival in Edinburgh. I have a former student (now in college) who went there... maybe last year or the year before... to perform and he had a blast!


    1. It's interesting how one's passions can morph a bit over time - or possibly remain the same, yet be superseded by other issues. At least I'm finding it that way, perhaps it's different for others. As to the Fringe, thanks! Good to know. Just got into Edinburgh today actually; still a mite overwhelming. I can definitely see it being an experience! #AllThatJazzHands